Natural England - State of the natural environment in the East Midlands

State of the natural environment in the East Midlands

27 April 2010

The natural environment matters. The State of the Natural Environment report 2008 brings together for the first time the evidence we have about the current situation in our natural environment.

Heather Restoration, Howden Moors, Peak District - Photo: Dave Key

Heather Restoration, Howden Moors, Peak District

The report demonstrates that the natural environment in England is much less rich than 50 years ago and remains under pressure from a significant range of threats. It identifies the impact of those threats on our landscapes and biodiversity.

Why it matters

The state of the natural environment matters to everyone in the East Midlands. It is an essential regional asset that provides the foundations for our economic and social well being.

A healthy natural environment provides essential public services, such as

  • Clean air, clean water and productive soils
  • Support for economic activity and sustainable energy production
  • Security against the impacts of climate change
  • A natural health service, contributing to people's health and wellbeing
  • Places to experience and enjoy the natural world

The East Midlands report

The State of the Natural Environment in the East Midlandsexternal link is a sister document to Natural England’s national State of the Natural Environment 2008 report. It brings together for the first time the regional evidence we have about the current situation in our natural environment.


  • In the Peak District National Park and Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the East Midlands has two attractive designated landscapes.
  • The 89,519 hectares of the Peak District National Park which falls within the East Midlands accounts for 6% of the region’s land area.
  • The Lincolnshire Wolds AONB is the only designated AONB in the region, accounting for 3% of the land area in the East Midlands, compared with a national average of 15%.
  • Outside the designated landscapes, the character of much of the region’s landscape is classified as changing or in a neglected state.
  • The landscape has been enhanced across the Fens, Melbourne Parklands and the Leicestershire & Derbyshire coalfields.
  • The East Midlands region has just 0.3% of England’s common land.


  • The region has 401 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), covering 11% of the region. 62,046ha of which are located in The Wash which is largely marine. In every county but Derbyshire less than 2% of the land is designated as terrestrial SSSI.
  • 94% of the region’s SSSI land is in favourable condition. Major contributions have been made by:
  • The Wash is the largest SSSI in England. It is an integral part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and is a Ramsar site which reflect the international importance of its species and habitats. It is also a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its internationally important bird populations.
  • We also have nationally significant heathlands in Nottinghamshire, Sherwood and the Lincolnshire Cover Sands as well as the most northerly population of Pasque flowers in England.
  • There are important semi-natural woodland complexes in the ancient forests of Sherwood (Nottinghamshire), the Bardney Limewoods (Lincolnshire), Rockingham Forest (Northamptonshire), Leighfield Forest (Leicestershire).
  • The East Midlands has some of the most productive agricultural systems and soils in the country (34% of England’s Grade 1 soils). Despite this, 66% of all available agricultural land is now in environmental land management agreements – an outstanding result.

Enjoying the natural environment

  • The Peak District National Park receives 22 million visits each year, almost one third of all visits to national parks in England.
  • The region has 16 National Nature Reserves (NNRs) covering an area of 4,000ha. Between them, they received 1.6 million visits in 2005/6.
  • Over 200,000 people visit our Derbyshire Dales NNRs, including a “spotlight” NNR in Lathkill Dale; our “spotlight” NNRs at Sherwood allow visitors to experience the area’s ancient trees and heaths.
  • The bracing sea air and dunes of Saltfleetby, Donna Nook and Gibraltar Point NNRs receive over 665,000 visits annually, and Saltfleetby is the third most visited Natural England-managed NNR in England.
  • The East Midlands has 18,000km of public rights of way, 625 km of navigable waterway and 121 Local Nature Reserves, many around built-up areas.
  • Of the 7,158ha of permissive access under the agri-environment schemes nationally, 1,253ha or 17.5% can be found in the East Midlands.
  • 80 walking groups have been set up across the region under the Walking for Health scheme.

Meeting the challenge in the East Midlands

We will work in partnership with land managers to ensure that we continue to achieve high levels of sustainable land management in changing economic circumstances.

More urban growth is planned in the East Midlands than in any other English region, with a total of 452,000 new homes planned across Northamptonshire and around Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Newark, Lincoln & Grantham by 2026. We will work through the planning system and with stakeholders to ensure that green infrastructure strategies are developed for the growth points, particularly the 6Cs sub-regional growth point, to recreate biodiversity and provide new opportunities for people to access the natural environment close to where they live, so helping combat low levels of physical activity and high levels of obesity.

Low-lying nature of the Lincolnshire coast makes it vulnerable to flooding and a climate change-induced rise in the sea level threatens the squeezing of coastal habitats against sea defences and developed land. Natural England took part in a project with regional partners to develop a planexternal link for the Lincolnshire coast that sustains its internationally important coastal habitats for wildlife and people in the face of sea level rise.

Related report

State of the Natural Environment 2008external link

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